Cooling appliances uptake exposes Kenya to dumping risk

Demand from domestic household cooling appliances such as fridges is on the rise, driving up electricity consumption. [Courtesy]

As hot weather conditions become increasingly common due to climate change, there is an increase in demand for household cooling appliances in Kenya, keeping up with the trends around the world.

While Kenya is currently experiencing heavy rains, which have had a devastating impact, the country has recently come from a prolonged drought and experts warn that the weather extremes will get worse.

The dry spells are expected to become more frequent and last longer. 

This development, experts say, will see an increase in demand for appliances like refrigerators and air-conditioners.

They further warn that it might result in a spike in instances of dumping of such appliances in the country as importers cash in on growth in demand.

This will, in turn, expose Kenyans to low-efficiency appliances that will increase their electricity bills. 

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that demand from domestic household cooling appliances could account for as much as 13 per cent of the electricity demand in the coming years. 

“If unaddressed, energy demand from residential refrigerating appliances and room air conditioning alone could reach approximately seven per cent and 13 per cent of the projected total electricity demand in Kenya,” says the report on Energy Efficiency and Affordability in Kenya.

According to the Agency, the global electricity consumption by light industries, appliances and cooling systems could quadruple through to 2040 as light industry develops and ownership of household appliances and cooling systems increases. 

This exposes many households in Kenya as well as other countries where uptake is growing to dumping of appliances.

Unscrupulous businesses looking to tap into the demand are importing old appliances that are also energy inefficient.

Among the risks that this exposes the users to are high electricity bills.

IEA in the report notes that the market for air conditioners remains dominated by low-efficiency options, with limited access for consumers to more efficient models.

It noted in doing research last year, it found out that in nearly every region of the world, the typical air conditioner sold is less than half as efficient as the best product in that same market.

This is even when buying a more energy-efficient appliance might not necessarily mean paying more.

“This means that consumers are often paying more for products which are of lower energy efficiency, leading to higher long-term household energy costs over the lifetime of the product. Opting for a more efficient model does not always come with a higher price tag and in virtually all cases, a more efficient appliance will lead to lower running costs,” said IEA, adding that the situation is the same in Kenya.

This is despite the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority’s (Epra) programme to label appliances through the star-rating programme.

“In Kenya, current data shows that about 90 per cent of air conditioners on the market carry a one-star energy label, the lowest energy efficiency class available, with most of the remainder at two-star,” says IEA.

“The implication is that consumers have limited access to better-performing models even though the best-performing options would cost less than the broadly available lowest-efficiency models. Opting for the high-efficiency model over the lowest-efficiency would more than halve energy bills over the lifetime, with cost savings accruing to almost $2,000 (Sh320,000).”

In its research, the Agency found out that in Kenya for $300 (Sh48,000), consumers could purchase an air-conditioning unit that is more than twice as efficient as low-efficiency alternatives.

They would buy a low-efficiency unit for about the same or slightly lower amount but they end up higher in terms of electricity bills.

It, however, notes that there is limited availability of higher-efficiency models.

IEA also notes the double standards employed by countries that export such appliances, whereby they have strict laws in place that do not allow the sale of low energy-efficient appliances in their domestic markets.

“Often exporting countries do not allow sale of appliances below mandated energy efficiency thresholds (MEPS) in their own markets; however, these appliances still end up being sold in other markets,” says IEA in the report.

IEA added that the implementation of standards and other measures to improve efficiency in appliances is increasingly critical in the next decade as demand for electricity increases.

Locally, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority has a rating mechanism, where it gives appliances a star rating of between one and five. A one-star rated appliance is energy inefficient with the best appliances in terms of efficiency getting a five-star rating.

Epra in 2016 introduced requirements for the use of energy efficiency labels on selected electrical appliances following the enactment of the Energy (Appliances’ Energy Labelling and Performance) Regulations.